Saturday, January 15, 2011

Are we all closet Fairtex mauy thai haters?

I'm a marketer by day, a chew toy for my dog by night, and a few evenings every week, I share my experience in muay thai with others. In marketing, I've learned that if your competitor mentions you (usually not in a nice way) in a press release, you've done your job.

So I'm about to make sure that someone at Fairtex has earned their paycheck. Someone out there has been going through my posts and pointing out on how I frequently rail against Fairtex, in particular. His/her name - Anonymous. So, Anonymous, here you go.

I agree with Anonymous on a number of points: I think that the popularity of muay thai is a great thing, I agree that 12 rounds of boxing isn't very efficient, and 2 guys grappling for extended periods of time in an MMA match isn't exactly the ideal way to handle a fight in the street.  I also understand that in Thailand, you grow up to either be a poor agrarian, get pulled into the sex trade, or, the only way out of poverty, train to become a muay thai fighter. Muay thai is the national sport and deep  rooted aspect of Thai culture, of which I have profound respect for. Otherwise I wouldn't have dedicated my entire adult life to learning and sharing muay thai.

My rationale is based on the the fear that mass commercialization of muay thai by profit driven enterprises such as Fairtex, Master Toddy, Tiger, MMA gyms etc., however much widespread attention it brings to the (sport, style, art, what have you), will have an effect similar to what the McDojo model did to TKD and Karate during the 1980's and 1990's. The retail muay thai gym business model is this: bring in 100 students: perhaps 3-5 of those 100 will become a champion fighter. Those fighters will bring in another 200 students, of which, another 3-5% will go on to be champion fighters. This stable of fighters will bring prestige to the gym, which will drive larger numbers of students - driving revenue, credibility and opportunity for expansion. This model is scalable in a business context, however, it makes it very difficult to maintain the quality of instruction over time. We can see this happening right now with Krav Maga. It's explosive popularity has made Krav THE system to learn for self defense. The path to instructor certification is fairly short, because the more paying certified instructors you have, the stronger the system (as an entity) will become. 

But popularity does not mean quality.

Here's a prime example: Master Toddy's instructor training program states "In 5 days you will learn what it normally takes 5 years to learn". The 5-day program comes with a price tag of $3,000. To me, Toddy's entire muay thai instructor / kru / ajarn program is entirely based on driving revenue. What can you really expect to absorb and how do you achieve long term retention over 5 days? Dude, proper elbow technique can't even be achieved in 5 days.

I'm just as passionate about muay thai as  you, Anonymous, but I'd say my passion has a different focus. That's all. Just like Ajarn Lek who works to preserve mauy chaiya, Tony Jaa who's done wonders to bring muay boran to a worldwide audience,  I work to spread the word about the older battlefield forms of muay thai (muay chao cherk) and demonstrate how muay thai can be integrated into effective close quarter combat. BTW - in no way am I putting myself on the same level as Tony Jaa and Ajarn Lek, however, I bet I'm taller than both of them.

There are a few others, like Daniel Sambrano who are willing to share for free...sort of. The price you pay - you have to listen to our rants about the bastardization of an ancient and inherently efficient fighting system.

 We all drink the muay thai kool-aid, just different flavors. As far as the fate of muay thai as a sport / martial art, all we can do is hope for  the best. And thanks, Anonymous for your comments.


  1. Very good post, i am definitely seeing Muay Thai being offered in just about every school now. I felt the same way when BJJ got popular and now everyone has a grappling (or as i call it "crappling") program or an "MMA" course. I've only heard of one official school in the Ga. area as far as Muay Thai goes and I'm going there to view their class. Most schools i've seen around the Columbus/Atlanta Area of Ga. have the slightest clue...they think that "Wai Khru" is a rap group. Again I'm just a spectator as far as Muay Thai goes and i definitely enjoy your write ups Mr. Baker.

    Michael "Timex" Tinner
    See ya on Facebook dude

  2. Great post Donnie, I must agree with his insites and observations on Muay Thai being taught today.

    We have had many students come through our doors to learn and when they have left come back years later letting us know that there is nothing like what we teach wherever they go.

    We are one if not the oldest Muay Thai schools in California and the USA, so we have seen alot of shady Muay Thai teachers and schools come and go.

    We are here and will always be here not because of the money, but because of our love for the Art of The Eight Limbs.

    Happy Shin Kicking
    Daniel Sambrano

  3. The way of the $$$. Same thing happened back in the day to boxing. It's a cryin F'in shame

  4. I feel your pain. I do a lot of MT, but started martial arts in FMA and some JKD, so I'm unfortunately very aware of politics and money.

    I almost feel it's a no-win. You do it for love you have a day job like my friends, but having a day job precludes us from doing it 24/7 and spreading it. Now not doing it for the love we train with who we want and have quality control, but few numbers, luckily the internet has allowed us to network; and, unfortunately, be trolled.

    The major downside to the non-profit types is the low numbers. Remember trying to get Thai shorts, Kali sticks, good quality pads before ebay/internet? Now we have what we want practically anywhere (MMA for example, which I love), but it's watered down and taken over by the "wrasslin" set, i.g., I counted 5 Afliction/Tapout shirts yesterday in IKEA. WTF?

    It's not popular = it's hard to find, but done right. It is popular = it's usually crap. *sigh*

  5. That's funny. You are bashing ring fighting as unrealistic but putting Tony Jaa on a pedestal? LOL Ong Bak was only a MOVIE dude! LOL He was using Taekwondo in a lot of the scenes. Oh yeah, I guess fighting 25 guys is very realistic. You are too funny Rex!

  6. Anonymous, deleted your other comment solely because in your argument you equated me to one of the worst kind of criminals. If you want to repost your rant, I'll push it through. I respect your opinion, regardless of how much you appear to dislike me, just keep it out of the realm of libel.

  7. You should heed your own advice. No, I don't dislike you. Just trying to enlighten you about the error in your ways by using an extreme example employing your own tactics. You are making sweeping generalizations based on your limited information.

  8. I agree 25 guys is much. But Ip Man did beat 10 Black Belts. Its what he was known for, and that was on a mat not an urban environment. So depending on the situation, not out of the realm of possibility.

    Donnie i agree with this post, keep up the good work.

  9. Maybe the real reason for your pathological hatred of Fairtex is rooted in jealousy of their success? It always much easier to accuse others of being sellouts than admit they are simply more successful because they are better? It's easy to claim you teach a better version of Muay Thai and then not have to back it up in the ring. The martial arts world is full of people teaching systems that are too deadly for competition.

  10. No worries Donnie, sounds like a few Taliban I've met. Blind dogma is a part of our nature. Every human has it to a degree or else we wouldn't survive as a group. You can't convert the un-convertable. When they rear their ugly heads, step back, give them a nod, and Charlie Mike.

  11. Muay Thai has been a major part of my world ever since I was very very young and now it seems that almost EVERYBODY is interested in this style of martial art ! All of a sudden, I'm starting to see (and/or hear about) Muay Thai schools popping up almost EVERYWHERE I go ! The availability of Muay Thai instruction and movies based on the art are increasing at an alarming rate ! Since WHEN did EVERYBODY start liking (or loving) Muay Thai ????! As with Karate and/or Tae Kwon Do, "MacDojos" or... in this case... "MacTraining Camps" are popping up all over the place diminishing the quality of instruction in this art ! I REALLY can't believe it all ! WHAT THE HELL ????!

  12. I think the UFC has actually helped Muay Thai go mainstream. Now any Tom, Dick, and MacDonnie can open up a MacMuay Thai school.

  13. Great post, Donnie. Very insightful and thought-provoking. Moving to a slight tangent, I was wondering about your thoughts on ranking and belt systems that seem to have been popping up in some Muay Thai schools.

    Ultimately, I guess I'm wondering how can Muay Thai in America remain adherent to traditions that began in Thailand, while adapting to Western culture.

  14. Hierarchical ranking system in MT, interesting concept. Legend has it that in old Okinawa, the student had the white belt and the teacher had the dirty white belt. The dirtier and darker, the more senior he was, and so the "Black Belt" was born. We are not asian, nor does everyone train to fight. The world is full of egos and many like to put their own spin on what they have learned. If a reputable teacher decides to institute a ranking system in order to seperate classes, promote goal setting, identify junior/senior students, or generate extra income to pay the light bill, more power to him. If you don't like it, go down to the warehouse with no air or heat and train with the other "traditional" hardcore fighters that want to keep it "real". Those that know will find the real deal. Those that are looking for the next flavor of the month fitness program, want to tell their friends they train in Muay Thai, or want a cool pair of shorts (except Donnie) will go to the nearest McMuay school, sign a life-time contract, and spread the "word" of Muay Thai. Either way, the art prospers and those that have spent a lifetime learning can make a living for their efforts.

  15. I'm not that knowledgeable about the world of muay thai, but I'm experienced in other arts. It would seem the more students a teacher acquires the less time he can spend on each individual... Surely sooner or later this will impact the quality of training negatively? I don't know if older forms of muay thai are better in streetfighting than the modern sports variant but obviously 5 day programs that promise to train you to instructor level are totally bogus and a waste of time... In the Japanese martial arts it is said each technique needs to be trained at least a few thousand times before it becomes so much a part of you that it flows naturally when needed: how on earth is it possible to practice even one technique thousands of times in just 5 days? Let alone in application and in sparring... This sort of training is a pure rip-off and it's selling out, no matter how you want to look at it: it's only good for one person and that is the instructor. 3000 bucks: pure greed.

    That being said I'm getting tired of the whole 'sports vs street' debate: surely the fact that certain techniques are forbidden in the ring should provide a clue as to their effectiveness in fighting? Surely fights that last more than 5 minutes between two individuals of equal weight and experience (with protection, a safe enviroment...) do not in any way reflect the reality of a life and death struggle? If you get kicked in the tigh you'll feel pain and your mobility will be compromised: if you get kicked in the knee you'll break or hyperextend it so your defense will become totally ineffective... I know which technique I'd prefer if my life and health depended on it. If sports muay thai was so goddamn effective and brutal you'd think all the special forces in the world would be training in it yet I have yet to hear of one unit trained as such. Fights with weapons are usually over in a matter of seconds, empty handed fights for survival instead of glory or entertainment should be the same: get in, do as much damage as possible and get the hell out. In reality no one dances around ones opponent or has time to feel the other guy out in ideal circumstances. Try adding even one extra opponent to the mix or a weapon and I'd like to see how these ring champions (let alone the lesser minions basking in the glory of others) would do... All things being equal the person who fights dirty will always have the upper hand and you'd better train for the worst circumstances if you want to come out on top. While I respect sports martial artists I don't see them do that... It's the same with groundfighting really: if you take the BJJ/MMA route you'll get your head bashed in trying to maneuver for the perfect position for an armlock, I'd rather poke him in the eye (or something of that nature), push him off and get up asap before his thug friends can join the party. The owner of the gymn where we train is very experienced in martial arts (instructorships in JKD, kali, thaiboxing and shooto) and trains people for competition in thaiboxing and MMA and he's of the same opinion: things that make sense in the ring or on the mat just won't cut it on the street and he's been a security guard/bouncer/licensed bodyguard for over 10 years so he has seen and experienced more than his fair share of violence and mayhem.

    Just one question Donnie: is your system purely empty handed or do you train with and against weapons too?


    PS: I would just ignore this 'anonymous' bloke spiteful comments (his ad hominem comment can just as easily be applied to him), especially since there are plenty of others here who are positive about what you say and teach. That should be enough, can't please everybody.

    1. To Zara, I know this issue with sport vs street stuff will always surface. May i ask have you ever had to survive on the streets yourself?, if your asking me, yes i have done it mant times its not pretty and all this before i have ever taken MT training and never have fought yet in the ring. One more thing to ponder about, you keep hearing a experienced or pro fighter both MMA type or MT get in street altercations and end up beating that thug that most of us would soil our diapers, just me two cents.

  16. @rickb101260 I think the belt ranking system is more a personal preference for each school. While many muay thai schools may implement the sash system, the instructors should really have a good idea of where his/her students stand in their progress w/out needing belts. Hey, I'm a blue belt in shotokan karate, because I took a few semesters in college for the P.E. credit :)

    I personally believe that a belt color does not mean anything anymore. There was a time when, to me, it stood for the amount of time an individual had dedicated to his/her system of training. But I've also seen newbies catch a black belt level guy sparring with some random, unconventional punch.

    The belt system has lost credibility largely due to our culture of instant gratification. I've heard of many people getting a black belt in less than a year. But I think Mr. Miyagi said it best, "Canvas. JC Penny, $3.99."

  17. @Zara My blog's name says it all - Beyond the Ring. I know the street vs. sport debate is old, I'm tired of it myself. It simply comes down to the mind set for which your train. If you train sport muay thai, then what Daniel and I teach will get you diqualified. If you train at an MMA school (for instance) you don't think about multiple opponents, because in that context, you'll never need to worry about it.

    And I think most of my readers would agree with you, the violence of a survival situation is on a completely level than violence in a competition.

    And yes, we do train with bladed, impact, firearms and improvised weapons - on a 1 on 1 and 1 on +2 situations.

  18. As to the belt system debate: I've been training for 10 years now and I still don't have my black belt (have my brown one for over 5 years now)... Yet I've grown all these years and I think I've become pretty darn effective, more so than a lot of the so called 'masters' I've met so far: I've been going to seminars for years and I found I'm actually better than the majority of black belts there, especially when it comes to attitude) so in short; I don't give a shit about the belt I or anybody else is wearing. It's meaningless since it all comes down to what you know and how you train, so called tests are mainly about technical knowledge and satisfying an instructor's ego (do it exactly as I say or I'll flunk you) and only a moron will think they represent reality in any way. When you've seen black belts making beginners mistakes or training like they don't give a shit (they probably wouldn't last 5 seconds in a real fight) you quickly realise belts are just a marketing ploy (instant gratification as you said) and are mainly about ego, not a correct representation of reality (how good someone really is). For a lot of people martial arts is just show and having a good time while the old ego's being pumped up: I used to think like that too until that fateful day when I was confronted with someone pulling a knife and threatening to kill me with it... We got into a quarrel and he came at me so I knocked him down but not out (afterwards he pulled the knife, the coward): big mistake that could have cost me dearly although I was clearly far superior in skill. While I didn't decompose under the stress (I fell back into a solid stance and grabbed a bottle to smash it over his head should he come closer) and I'm quite proud of that I know that he wasn't exactly what you would call a hardened criminal and so I did wonder whether my training would have been enough (some people intervened so he didn't actually attack). This spurred me to train harder and acquire the mindset of a true fighter: when threatened you don't back down (in the sense of breaking down mentally, of course an orderly retreat is always an option and often the smarter one) but you focus and you destroy the guy the second he makes a false move. I don't go looking for trouble, I'm an overall nice guy not involved in any criminal activities but there's a certain line you do not cross... I'm not a streetfighter, MA instructor, SD 'expert' or experienced cop and I can't claim that kind of experience but when faced with another human-being who's so enraged he would gladly plunch a knife into your gut (multiple times too probably) it changes you and you become much more aware of the value of life and what it takes to protect it (your own and those around you)... To me this is the true heart of the MA no matter the country, culture or style: the most effective and efficient way of employing violence for self-preservation and the protection of what is good and decent in this world. This is many, many miles away from the mindset of those engaged in sports fighting (alfa male pseudo violence without too much real risk) and while I respect that too (to some level at least, it's entertaining to watch) it's not the direction I want to take since it would put me at a severe disadvantage should I ever end up in a similar situation as the one I described earlier. I don't care about belts, trophies, ego or other's opinions: I care about going home safely at the end of the day and to be able to protect my loved ones should the need arise. That's why I said in another comment the MA are about one thing and one thing only and that is the most effective use of force... Those who think otherwise do not take their training very seriously and could well be in for a rude awakening one day. Especially those training in sports MA, the more so since only a very small portion of those students are actual, succesful ring fighters. ...

  19. About the only reason to take the test (my sensei's been bugging me about it for over a year now) is to show gratitude to my him since I learned so much from him and he trains privately with me for free... I'd be his first black belt student so why not, it'd be good to go over the syllabus once again although I have been training differently lately (mainly sparring, weapons and impact training). Some day I'd like to teach myself and for that you must have some credentials: people are superficial but that's just the way it is. I do plan on acquiring some true to life experience before that though (security or bouncing), Daniel's message rang true (you can't teach true SD when you have litte knowledge about actual violence) although I have been thinking about that for some time now. For now I'm just happy to train and see my skills improve. Isn't that what it should be about?

    What kind of experiences do you have Donnie? I'm always interested in hearing about real life stories so I can benefit from other's experience.


  20. I am a Englishman have read this post with great interest, those of you who don't know about what Toddy did in the UK. he can never go back there due to tax evasion, lost his visa and basically was forced to leave, he also ripped some people of alot of money, over 300,000 us dollars, if he sets foot in Manchester again he will not be around anymore. This is the truth so please dont listen to what you have read in the martial arts mags etc and now hes back in his native Thailand, second most corrupt country in asia, it deserves him!

  21. Hi my name is Kru Judd "Tan Sa Mai" (New Era) I totally agree with your post.. I myself am a respectable Muay Thai Gym owner... I have trained with and worked with some of the best world Champion Muay Thai ..and K-1 fighters. I have been Building (struggling) with my gym for the past 3 years.. and yes I believe we as practitioners of this ancient but beautifully brutal art of Muay Thai or Boran or muay Lao or whatever family style or derivative it may be... should really care about how and what direction this combat system should go. I feel that as an teacher and owner of a gym business it is very crucial to retain the integrity of the system and not to "sell out" I think it is possible to operate a small gym and still be able to make a comfortable living out of it.. you may not get rich but you can be comfortable.. it is all in how you schedule your classes ... and how you provide your curriculumn.. I have trained in small gyms and as well Giant Franchises.. and to my sad dismay.. the giant franchises seem to like you say overshroud the really good smaller gyms because of popularity not because of the quality. From my personal teaching experience I found it very difficult to teach 30 people at one time and this was at a very well known gym here in Vancouver CANADA known as REVOLUTION MMA one of the fighters out of that gym known as Black MAMBA fought BUAKAW.. funny thing is he got his but kicked by Buakaw due to the fact that the training at this gym was lackluster.. but to cut to the chase... after my experience with the big gym phenonmena.. I swore to myself that I would never sell out.. off course I would like to make money however at what cost?.. I have a reputation and I would like to keep it intact personally ... I can sincerely say i can sleep well at nite knowing that my members and future fighters are getting the best training that their Kru could offer them. I limit my classes to no more than 20 per class slot but that's even too much.. I personally feel that if you want to increase your profits and membership.. you just simply offer more classes at different time slots.. and LIMIT your enrollment.. to 14-20 people training at one time.. this way you can retain the quality of instruction... if you build a business model that way.. as well as run a smaller facility with lower overhead.. your bottom line will be equal to that of a bigger gym or a mc dojo.. provide quality and not worry too much about quantity.. provide sincerety and detail to attenction and you will have a higher retention of members.. this is my teaching and business philosophy.. and if you needed to expand and increase your business.. instead of getting a bigger space.. just branch out and find another small satellite location whereas you can utilize / and hire your more senior members to run and operate the other facility and you can travel back and forth between the 2 or 3 gyms during the week.. this is what I have done.. and I have been very happy with the progress and results.. It is really sad to see people like "master Toddy" I know of one guy here in Vancouver who is Certified under him.. and he couldn't fight his way out of a paper bag in my opinion.. I have asked this guy several times to spar and he would avoid me.. so... WALLA!! But to Master Toddy's credit he has produced some good Female fighter's so to speak but they are not world class in my opinion. There are a number of so called "Master" Muay Thai instructors such as that have trained under Master Toddy and are now Master's in Less than 5 years.. This is what I call disgusting... and dispicable.. it really gets to me.. I have spent my lifetime and teens learning and refining my training and teaching.. I have loved this art and sport for more than over 20years.. I started muay thai when I was in my teens and now I am in my 40's I still wouldn't Dare call myself an Ajarn unless my Ajarn gives me that status... anyways just my thoughts.. I agree that it is disgusting.

  22. I would love to stop by. But, I think it might have to wait until this summer. I did not know that Serlkay had ever expanded its size. I must say that a succesful family owned business in this day and age is a very refreshing sight! As well as this is a very refreshing site!
    view website

  23. can say without doubt that Master Toddy his the real deal he may have his own style which some of you don’t like because he as brought the sport into the main stream and your super jealous of his success i understand your frustration peeps. not
    Master Toddy was one of 4 guys to bring Muay Thai to the UK in a big way
    i respect everybody who Teachers Muay Thai the problem comes when Those guys who pretend to be the champions of the sport constantly stabbing others in the back to get ahead
    The UK as some great gyms Learn Muay Thai there then find your gym in Thailand from recommendations of people who have Trained there and remember everybody as different goals and agendas
    my own his to have fun with my family over the hill to fight but keep in shape and bring on the next generation
    enjoy the sport

  24. i have my garage gym, set up delux with everything needed.

    a few fellow minded guys come over and we train regular.

    i have large screen monitor to assist us with training video lessons if and when needed .

    we are much better than most camps and schools ..

    most of us have been around those regular muay thai expensive gyms and know the difference and score.

    naturally everyone must sign a release waiver of responsibility and liability.

    additionally i feel this is far superior to any trips to thailand for any training or instructions.

    with effort you can beat the system and succeed.

    we visit them so called proper schools to spar when needed and do a fair job .